The battle with Brazilian Portuguese
I'm not a big lover of New Year's resolutions, though the early weeks of January do normally allow me to take stock and recalibrate long-term goals. With that in mind, 2017 has seen me redouble my efforts with regards to studying Portuguese.
Whereas I made good progress in my first 12 months of learning the language (I was also living in Lisbon at the time), Portuguese ended up on the back burner for much of 2016 as work commitments increased, not least preparing a team to interpret at EURO 2016.
I have consciously found at least an hour a day this year, reading a lot of crime fiction in Portuguese, underlining the words I'm not sure about, before making a note of them and returning to the flashcards in subsequent days. I also didn't miss an episode of Portuguese soap opera A Única Mulher until the season finale. Affairs, blackmail, kidnapping and murder - it's got it all, complete with a cast of beautiful people and ludicrous music for suspense to boot!
However, my biggest realisation was how unfamiliar I am with Brazilian Portuguese. My ear is completely out of tune with it. It's ironic given prior to learning European Portuguese, the little Portuguese I could understand was spoken with a Brazilian accent.
So why did I opt for European Portuguese in the first place? Again, there's a paradox here. Funnily enough, a Brazilian colleague of mine suggested I'd be better off learning European Portuguese for a couple of reasons:
a) I am accredited with the EU and hope to add Portuguese to my language combination, meaning European Portuguese was the more logical choice;
b) Practicality. Portugal is a relatively short flight away and I made full use of the EU's freedom of movement for workers.
I therefore pressed ahead with European Portuguese, though I now realise it would be at best naive (and at worst reckless) to disregard a variant spoken by more than 200 million people in the world's 9th largest economy.
Besides, football is a big part of my professional life and there are huge numbers of Brazilian players moving to Europe every year, making it more likely I'll be required to interpret for them than their Portuguese counterparts once I begin working with the language.
All that meant it was time to make a conscious effort with Brazilian Portuguese.
I have been doing 45 minutes' conversation per week with a native Brazilian speaker via italki.com and trying to familiarise myself with as much Brazilian content as possible (e.g. my friend Felipe's excellent YouTube channel Deu Liga).
Thankfully, it's been less difficult than I first feared. The main challenge I've faced has been the difference in terminology. Sadly, there is no shortcut when it comes to vocabulary. Time to knuckle down!
In the meantime, it's full steam ahead and, who knows, I might reward myself with a cheeky trip to Brazil later this year...